A Bad Year for Apples and Peaches
November 6, 2023
This year, many New Hampshire fruit trees lost their spring blossoms to a late spring frost, meaning fewer apples to pick this fall. Weird weather affects everyone but is a game-changer for farmers who grow our food.
New Hampshire has finally gotten a garden-ending killing frost. Until recently, backyard gardens were bursting with squash, cukes, tomatoes (green and red), and more. Garden produce exploded from the ground with the extraordinary amounts of rain we had this summer. But something was missing: local apples and peaches.
In May, my backyard apple trees were covered with blossoms and buzzing with bees. Then, disaster struck. On May 17 and 18, New Hampshire had a late spring frost that seemed harmless to most of us. Just a bit of cold, and we all got on with our lives. But that cold (down to 27 degrees) lasted two days. Fruit blossoms are vulnerable to frost once the buds begin to swell.
To save the tender blossoms, farmers stayed up all night running wind machines, pulling down warm air to break up the pooling of cold air among the trees. At Apple Hill Farm in Concord, such valiant efforts didn't work because there was no warm air to bring down.
Mother Nature won that battle, and many local orchards lost all or most of their apple and peach crops. It was sad for those do-it-yourselfers who love to roam through an orchard picking apples and peaches, but it was a disaster for the farmers whose livelihoods and farms depend on that once-a-year crop.
Income from fall festivals, homemade doughnuts, corn maze fun, and wagon rides can help, but when an entire crop is lost, a farm can fail. And developers are always ready to buy.
So far, most New Hampshire farmers haven't given up, but we need help when the weather goes insane with late frosts, too much rain, or too little rain.
New Hampshire Farm Bureau
So, the New Hampshire Farm Bureau (NHFB) is lobbying hard for local federal aid and better crop insurance.
NHFB Policy Director Rob Johnson and President Joyce Brady recently joined U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen on a tour of devastated farms, including Apple Hill, where the senator saw Chuck Souter's trees' bare branches that should have been drooping with fruit. The goal was to show our senator the problem and enlist her help.
"So much of national farm policy is geared for commodity farms in the Midwest. NHFB is here to help New Hampshire agriculture so your kids can pick local apples from a farm down the road. It's about quality of life for all of us," explained Johnson.
Hats off to the New Hampshire Farm Bureau for speaking up for those most affected by weird weather---farmers.
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Carole Soule is co-owner of Miles Smith Farm, where she raises and sells pork, raw milk, eggs, and beef. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.